Poll workers

Poll workers work on the electoral boards in Bundestag and European elections. The members of the electoral boards, or poll workers, are appointed by the municipal authorities.

The electoral board of a polling station consists of

  • one electoral officer,
  • one deputy electoral officer,
  • three to seven additional members.

Poll workers must be entitled to vote and have to perform the following tasks:

  • ensure that the poll is properly conducted,
  • check whether a voter has the right to vote by consulting the voters’ register,
  • hand out the ballot paper,
  • make a note in the voters’ register that the voter has participated in the poll,
  • uncover the ballot box for the ballot paper to be put in,
  • determine and establish the election result for the polling district.

The members of the electoral boards have to make preparations before polling stations open at 8 a.m. Polling stations are open until 6 p.m. Then the votes are counted. That procedure may last until after midnight, depending on the scope of the election. The members of the electoral boards receive a refreshment allowance for their work, and their travel expenses are refunded under certain conditions.

Poll workers act on an honorary basis and every person entitled to vote may be appointed to such office.

The following persons may refuse to become poll workers on an honorary basis:

  • members of the federal government or a Land government,
  • members of the European Parliament, the German Bundestag or a Land parliament,
  • persons entitled to vote who have reached the age of 65 years,
  • persons entitled to vote who have an important reason.

Important reasons include:

  • family responsibilities which make it particularly difficult to perform such duties,
  • urgent professional grounds,
  • illness or disability.

The municipal authority responsible decides whether there actually is an important reason for refusal. The person entitled to vote has to provide proof for the reason given.

The electoral regulations do not contain any provisions regarding special leave/exemption from work for poll workers. Whether exemption from work is granted or not is generally at the discretion of the employer where there are no legal or collectively agreed regulations.

Federal employees may be granted exemption from work or administrative leave by decree. As a rule, poll workers are granted one day of administrative leave or exemption from work for their honorary work under the condition that the refreshment allowance paid by the municipalities to their own staff members does not considerably exceed the amount provided for by federal law and that only this allowance is received. There are similar regulations for public service employees in some Länder.

Legal bases

Bundestag Election:

Sections 8 to 11 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)
Sections 6, 9, 10 of the Federal Electoral Regulations (BWO)

European election:

Section 5 of the European Elections Act (EuWG)
Section 4 of the European Elections Act (EuWG) in conjunction with Sections 9 to 11 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)
Sections 6, 9, 10 of the European Electoral Regulations (EuWO)

Last update: 21 January 2021